I'm 19 and have been getting cold sores since pre school. I was on some kind of medicine that you take for 5 days, but now am on Valtrex. I can't say that it's any better than my off-brand medication though, I'm not really noticing any sort of difference, the healing time is shortened to the maximum of 4 days though. I also use abreva which only seems to really work for me if I take it ASAP.
However, I was pretty pissed off when I found this out: by pressing a hot tea bag onto my sore when it's in the painful full blown big fat stage (and the bag has to be steaming hot to work, I stood in the bathroom running it under hot water and pressing up to my sore for about 5 seconds then getting it hot again) and doing this for about 20 minutes, the sore is dramatically reduced. My tingling stopped immediately following that. The swelling was literally 50% less so I could cover it up with makeup.
So I'm thrilled that it ACTUALLY works. I really didn't think it would. I'm not sure whether it was the extremly hot water or the tea or both, but it was a really bad painful sore and now it's practically unnoticable after 3 hours. But still...I'm mad that I've been spending 13 dollars for little tiny tubes of abreva and money on perscriptions. And I'm mad I just now figured it out after suffering for 19 years of my life... but wahoo, try it. It's comppletely worth the 30 minutes and the hotness of the bag.